Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Goes With Me into 2010

I just read a New Year’s newsletter, and in it was written, “This will not follow me into the New Year.”

That sentence popped for me, especially in thinking in terms of New Year’s resolutions. Instead of being in the new year and seeing some old kink in my life, a bad habit or sin I have to overcome, my “this” can be left behind. In a very intentional way, it no longer has to be a part of my thinking or life as I move into a new year.

I think of the Live Free series I wrote over the last few years, it’s basic call to live free. How crucial it is to consider what pulls us down and keeps us from living fully free as God intended. Added to that concept, a verse I grabbed a hold of in a new way during this year is John 10:10: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (NIV).

Life. God calls us to live it abundantly. In Greek that word is not bios—a simple physical, biological existence—but zoe. God invites us to a full-on thrust toward a passionate life.

Live freely. Live fully.

Couched in God’s purposes for my life and trusting his work within me, these two simple statements have become my passion and a part of my mission statement in what I do in life and ministry.

So the other side of my prayer-filled determination to not allow “this” to follow me into the New year, is bringing what I know fosters freedom and fullness with me into the New Year.

I’m picturing standing at a doorway. One side is 2009 and the other is 2010. I can’t stay in 2009. God created me, you, all of us, to be forward moving, not only in time, but in growth. I must go through the door. When I do, I can close it behind me and step into the New Year. No going back. With God's strength and life pulsing through me because I walk in trust in him, I can leave behind the old and step into greater freedom and fullness.

So over the next few days, I’m making lists.

This will not follow me into the New Year.

will follow me into the New Year.

What will be on your lists? Girl talk time! (Though as usual, guys are welcome to join in the conversation too!)



Monday, December 28, 2009

A Carousel Ride

I feel like I should start each post with specifying that I’m Stephanie Morrill, but I don’t want to steal Camy’s adorable “Camy here!” I’ll have to work on a tagline of my own. Anyway. Pressing on.

For the last six months, every time I’ve taken my toddler, McKenna, to the mall, she’s asked to go visit the “horses.” (Known to others as the carousel.) We would always stand at the railing and watch the other kids on there, and McKenna would ask to touch the horses. I kept saying, “No, we can’t touch the horses today. Time to tell them bye-bye.” And she’d very sweetly wave and say, “Bye horses!”

When she turned two about a week ago, my husband and I thought the perfect birthday activity would be taking her to the mall to ride the carousel. I waited until after her nap to tell her what we were going to do that night, and she was SO excited. As soon as my husband walked in the door from work, she ran to him and yelled, “Horses!”

So it caught us completely off-guard when we paid for admission onto the carousel, settled her onto the horse she’d selected, and McKenna started whimpering and asking to get down. She looked completely stricken, as if she’d rather be anywhere but sitting on that horse.

As I watched the panic filling her face, it occurred to me that it really wasn’t so surprising. In fact, it’s something I’ve experienced before. Like when I opted to go to a private, all girls high school where I knew nobody. I anxiously awaited for the summer to be over so I could start the exciting new chapter in my life, but when I walked in the first day of school, I wanted to throw up.

Or how I spent years waiting for my first book, Me, Just Different, to be released. And before it was even on shelves, a so-so review hit my inbox, and I was flooded with the sensation that I was way out of my league, that I couldn’t do this. And six months later, as Out with the In Crowd is being shipped to bookstores, I’m experiencing these doubts all over again.

Watching as McKenna grew more and more afraid of this activity she’d longed to do, my husband and I fought to distract her. (Look at those lights McKenna! Can you pet the horse? Do you see yourself in that mirror?) And slowly McKenna relaxed. By the end of the two minute ride, she even looked like she might be enjoying herself. Though she did not ask to do it again.

It reminded me that in times of panic, fear, and unfamiliarity, I have a Heavenly Father to lean on. He can see the situation in full and already knows how it’ll work out for my good, same as my husband and I knew the carousel ride would be fun for McKenna if we could just get her to relax. He has the ability to comfort and guide me, if only I’ll trust Him as completely as McKenna trusts us. And he’s infinitely more trustworthy than we are.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Stephanie Morrill

Sunday, December 27, 2009

After Christmas weight loss

Camy here! I am writing this before Christmas, but I already know my uncle is going to cook us something FABULOUS and I will most likely pig out like a starving native.

It happens every year. I eat too much and feel fat. Actually, I feel fat every time I eat too much throughout the year, but somehow I feel fatter over Christmas dinner.

So here’s to New Year’s weight resolutions! I make one every year!

This past year, I was doing a bit better. I lost a few pounds, gained a few back again (but not as much as I lost), and repeated the cycle a few times. If I had been able to keep losing versus spending time losing what I gained back, I probably would have reached my goal weight set at the beginning of the year. At my thinnest, I lost about 12 pounds from the beginning of the year, but right now, I’ve gained about 5 extra pounds.

On someone my height (5’2”), it’s significant enough to make me feel good that I lost some weight, but also sad that I can’t seem to keep it off consistently.

I’m totally into natural (because at my age, anything chemical or man-made that might increase my changes of cancer or other icky stuff is not something I want to contemplate), so I’ve been eating more veggies, less meat, less starch (but not cutting them out of my diet entirely. I’ve also been trying to write down what I eat at Sparkpeople.com so I don’t go too overboard.

I’ve also been trying to do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, and some days I’m up to 60 minutes. Some days I don’t do any. :( I’m working on my discipline, can you tell?

So for all of us mourning our fat rolls after eating all of Aunt Mertle’s yummy sesame seed dinner rolls, let’s try to eat healthy and exercise for the new year! Let me know if you have any other natural tips that have worked for you!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Times Record > Archives > Features > Harrison’s Holiday Highlights

The Times Record > Archives > Features > Harrison’s Holiday Highlights: There is more information at my website on Appreciate a Dragon Day. The underlying purpose of the day is to promote literacy. Dragonlovers are encouraged to pick their favorite literary dragon and introduce them to others through some art form. Check the ideas under fun ideas. In case the link doesn't work, the information is at www.donitakpaul.com
Merry Christmas and have a happy new year plus an interesting AADD. (Appreciate a Dragon Day.)

What if Mary had said NO?

Last weekend we put out a new nativity set that my Grandma purchased for us for our Christmas gift this year. It's a beautiful set, and I love that it's the centerpiece of my dining room. Of course, I had to pause as I was setting up beautiful Mary. In fact, it made me think, "What if she'd said no?"

This morning this thought came to me again as I was reading Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby. Here is what they had to say:

"One of the most significant illustrations of hearing and responding to God is found in the life of Mary, Jesus' mother. God's eternal purpose was to bring a Savior into the world, and through that Savior to bring his His great salvation to every person. He found the one through whom He would choose to work--Mary, a quiet servant girl. An angel from God announced God's purpose through her. Then came her amazing and wonderful response: "'Behold a maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her" (Luke 1:38). And God did what He said He would do! Impossible to man, but possible with God (Luke 1:37)." p. 19

It made me stop to think about how willing I am to follow what God has asked me to do. Do I always respond like Mary. No. Are there things He's asked me to do that I haven't followed through with yet? Yes.

Often, I ask God to lead me to new places so I can reach new people, and sometimes I wonder if He's waiting. Waiting for me to finish the assignments He's giving me. Waiting for me to say yes to all He's already asked.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Love in a Bag

Yesterday my college-aged son spent one of his first days of Christmas break in a creative act of giving. He went to the Dollar Store and bought supplies for what our church calls Manna Bags—packages of non-perishable food and toiletry items—then took the bus to the downtown station where he handed some of them out. He didn’t intend it as an act of Christmas giving. After seeing so many homeless or down-and-out men and women hanging around the bus stop whenever he took public transportation to his college classes, he felt led to do it. He had gotten in the habit of keeping a Manna Bag in his backpack in case he saw someone in need and this was his chance to give several at once without worrying about the time. It wasn’t until he got home and shared about who he’d given them to that I saw it as a creating Christmas outreach.

If you struggle with how to handle requests for “spare change” consider making some Manna Bags. They are a great way to . . .
Show you care
Offer help without giving money

How to make a Manna Bag
• Use large zipper bags or lunch bags (that’s what Christian uses).
• Go to the Dollar Store or someplace where you can get a lot for your money, to buy items to fill the bags.
• Good Manna Bag stuffers include:
o Non-perishable foods – raisins, nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, and lunch sized fruit or applesauce cups, tuna & cracker packs (the Dollar Store often carries these), beef jerky, etc. If you include foods that require a fork or spoon be sure to slip in a plastic one.
o A bottle of water
o Toiletry items like a toothbrush & toothpaste or soap & a wash cloth
o Cold weather items like socks, a stocking cap, or stretchy gloves
o A treat – slip in a candy bar or snack cake to brighten their day. If you plan to do this before Christmas, you might want to include a candy cane.
o Extras – Our church included 20-minute phone cards from the Dollar Store with a note that said “Call your family to let them know you are okay,” as a gospel tract.
Christian’s are always very simple since he is a starving student. He fills his bags with food items, a water bottle, a treat, and a toothbrush.

Tips for handing Manna Bags out
• If you encounter needy people on a regular basis, keep one in your backpack or car so you are prepared when you want to reach out.
• If someone asks you for money, offer the Manna Bag instead
• Use caution – If you want to hand out bags in an area where you’ve noticed a lot of homeless people, go with your parents, some friends, or a group so you aren’t alone.
• If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, stay away. Never risk your safety.
• Think beyond the homeless. You might know of a kid at school or in your neighborhood who could benefit from one now and then.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Favorite Things

I've been thinking a lot about what really matters. And you know what matters to me? People I love.

I blogged last time that my girls and I were getting together December 13th to make Christmas cookies. We did and guess what? This year we all wore matching pajamas.

My daughters are grown now, but when they were little, we gave them matching pj's on Christmas Eve. The past couple of years, I've started buying matching pj's again. AND this year I bought me some too! We all wore our pj's to the Cookie Making Party. I think it's my favorite Christmas activity--and it's such a simple thing to do. Simple but with much love. That's where my heart is.

One more simple thing. My husband and I have started sitting together on our front porch every morning really early. 6:30 a.m. It's still dark outside. We have our coffee and just sit in rocking chairs. We don't talk about anything all that important. This week, we've turned on the white Christmas lights that go around our porch. Today I said, "You really matter to me." He said, "You really matter to me, too."

Is there anything more valuable than spending moments with those we love? That's where my heart is this morning. If anybody else is feeling this exquisite gift of connecting with those you love, please share.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas

Some Christians think we should contain Christmas in a little square box and only allow things "holy" into the activities of a "true Christian." But doesn't that go against Jesus coming to the world?
I agree that the commercialism around the sacred holiday is annoying, but the act of celebrating contains exuberance. So when I see Christmas homes decked with snowmen, reindeer, gingerbread houses, and other "secular" items, I relish the creativity, both cute and beautiful, and let the joy bubble in my heart. I think for those of us who are secure in the real meaning of Christmas can deal with the difference between the sublime and the ridiculous.

In my own house as the kids were growing up, we celebrated the tradition of Santa Claus from the day after Thanksgiving until Dec. 6th, which is St. Nicholas Day. We hung stockings the night before. After giving the jolly fat man his due, and also studying the different Santa Claus traditions of the world, we put him away and concentrated on the birth of Jesus for the rest of the holiday season. My children loved it. They not only got Santa Claus, but they got him early. The rest of the kids had to wait until Christmas Eve. And I told them from the very beginning that if they followed Christ and developed His gift of love and generosity, they would grow up to be somebody's St. Nick!

I'd like to invite you to the Christian Author Holiday Home tour. You can begin at my blog:

Dragon Bloggin

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Not Knowing

The anticipation of Christmas around here is high. I have three daughters, 10 and under, so Christmas is a fun time of the year. They know exactly when it is and have it counted down to mere days now. I love Christmas morning because we not only get the joy of celebrating Christ's birth, but we have the joy of giving and receiving gifts. And it is a joy.

But while we have a set day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we don't really get many other certain days.

When will I find the right guy?
When will I know what I'm supposed to do?
When will it change?
When will it get better?
What am I supposed to do while I'm waiting?

So many questions - I bet you all could add a dozen more to this tiny list. Our questions, our needing to know; it never really goes away. Today, I'm wondering how to squeeze a few more dollars out of an empty bank account. I'm waiting to see my full-time volunteer position turn into a full time job - you know, the kind with a paycheck. But I have no idea when that might happen. In the meantime, I wait.

But we don't just wait - we are waiting on God. It's waiting combined with trust that God knows the day and the hour. That God has the perfect timing. He's never late (but He isn't early either). We can trust God because he's always shown himself to be faithful. Is God faithful to what we want? No - he's faithful to what He knows is best. I'd rather have what he wants for me than what I think I want. After all, he knows the beginning to the end.

So while we are anticipating a morning of celebration, I hope you can find joy in the waiting - knowing that God will make things clear at the right time if we are willing to listen and follow Him.

Let us pray for you! What are you waiting on?

Monday, December 14, 2009

You burp, therefore I love you

Camy here! I was just thinking about this the other day—when we’re truly ourselves with someone and they don’t run screaming in the other direction, that’s got to be love.

This might be kind of gross, so TMI alert, but my husband and I actually … fart in front of each other.

Yes, it’s true. Romance has descended to this. He burps in front of me, too. But I’m better if I’ve drunk a coke.

I have a point, I promise I do. My point is that he loves me exactly the way I am, imperfect and human and sometimes stupid.

Actually, he thinks he really scored with me because I will actually forget our anniversary. Yes, it’s true. I just did it this year. All his friends who have wives who have to remind them two weeks in advance of their anniversary date—and who expect a gift—are in envy of him because not only do I not remember the date, if he doesn’t get me anything, I’m totally fine with that, since I’ve probably forgotten to get him something, too.

Now, that’s love.

My point, again, is that we love each other despite the fact I leave water behind the sink faucet and he leaves his stuff all over the floor. And steals the comforter cover.

We love each other even when I forget to take out the trash or—oops—feed the dog (although the dog isn’t really feeling the love at that point).

So for all you hopeless romantics who hope for a knight in shining armor who has good hygiene, sorry, he might not exist. But a knight in shining armor who would lay down his life for you AND buy you Godiva for your birthday—he might be out there. And God will bring him to you, in God’s own timing. And that timing will be perfect.

After all, He gave me my prince, farts and all. LOLOLOLOLOLOL I couldn’t resist...

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her humorous contemporary romance novel, Single Sashimi, and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveways!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Meant to Last

Not all friendships are meant to last forever. This is something I’ve been reminded of in the last year. Several times over, in fact. Yes, even when you’re an adult, the nasty-friend-break-up thing can still happen.

I’m still learning how to choose friends wisely. That’s a little embarrassing. I feel at age 26, I should be better at this, but I’m not. Sometimes I still depend on the wrong people. Sometimes I deceive myself about how close I actually am to a person. When the veils come down on those situations, it’s darn uncomfortable.

And things get really tricky when we’re both Christians. When we’ve both been instructed by God, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

I’m far from an expert on how to handle these situations. Like really far. But here’s what I’ve learned in my last year of losing who I thought was my best friend and struggling to figure out where our relationship should now stand.

Forgiveness can be painful and humbling

That’s why there’s such a temptation to hang onto that anger and seek revenge. Particularly if you feel like you’ve been wronged in the situation. It’s been almost an entire year since we had our tell-all conversation, and I’m still regularly confessing anger to God and asking him to help me forgive.

Demotions are okay

I went from being the first person she called when anything exciting happened, to learning everything through her Facebook status. I found this quite maddening in the beginning. In fact, I cried the first time it happened.

But I’ve since learned that this person and I really don’t work as close friends. We’re not compatible. We are, however, good acquaintances. We both have young kids, and getting together once a month to let the kids play while we drink coffee is a much better arrangement for us. It doesn’t have to be best friends or nothing.

There are two forms of reconciliation

I used to only think of reconciliation in terms of divorce. Like when a separated or divorce couple reconciled, they went back to living like married people. Then, when I was doing Beth Moore’s The Patriarchs study a couple years ago, I learned of another kind.

In Genesis 31, Jacob’s father-in-law has come after him in anger. After the two have “talked it out,” Laban says to Jacob, “This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap on my side to harm me.”

They reconcile … but Laban goes his way and Jacob goes his.

Sometimes that’s how it works best for us as well. When you’re in a friendship where you keep hurting each other, when peace is impossible, reconciling and going your separate ways can be a good option.

I think it’s easy to imagine friendship being like those Clean & Clear commercials. You know, how the girls are always giggly, close, and smooth-skinned? But real life is a lot deeper than that, for better and worse.

Hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend!

Stephanie Morrill

Friday, December 11, 2009

Keeper of the Stars

I love flying in an airplane at night and looking down at a city all lit up like a Christmas tree, with twinkling streams of red and white lights winding through its heart and branching out on its highways. I think of all the people coming and going in those tiny cars--some happy, some sad, many feeling weighed down with life's responsibilities or worries. I always wish I could call out to them and say, "Whatever’s bothering you, it's not as big as you think it is! God is on His throne. Trust Him."

There's a line in Tracy Byrd's song "Keeper of the Stars" that says, "It was no accident, me finding you. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew."

Isn't that a lovely idea? It was no accident. It was planned. Someone had a hand in it. He knew long before we did.

This time of year I often think about Mary and what it must have been like for her that first Christmas. The entire Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Messiah. For Israel, it was never a matter of "if" but "when." Now the time has finally come, and Mary knows she carries the Son of God in her womb. But that's about all she knows. The angel Gabriel didn't lay out the whole game plan, and somehow Joseph and Mary missed the bit in Micah about a ruler coming forth from Bethlehem. They're still hanging out in Nazareth and Mary is almost ready to deliver, when Caesar decrees everyone has to go to their home town and be registered. Then, after what had to be an excruciating journey, the city is so crowded they have to stay in a stable.

Have you ever been in a stable? Dirty straw. Animal dung. Not exactly sterile conditions. I imagine Mary thinking, "Now I've done it. I'm giving birth to God's Son in a barn! This can't be good." But then the shepherds show up with news of angelic messengers and good tidings of great joy. No wonder Mary treasured these things, pondering them in her heart. God knew His Son would be born in a barn. The same God who spoke the Bethlehem prophecy through Micah moved Caesar to decree a census. And just to put an exclamation mark on the whole scenario, the One who numbers the stars and calls them all by name set one like a spotlight on His Son, a beacon to wise men then and now.

The Keeper of the Stars. He does according to His will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and no one can stay His hand. He acts according to His wisdom and for His own glory. It was God's plan for His Son to be born in a stable. It was also God's plan all along--even before the foundation of the world--for His Son to die on the cross.

Mothers dream beautiful dreams for their children. We want them to grow up and accomplish great things for God, and we want them to impress the world in the process. We rejoice over their successes and we grieve over their mistakes. We kiss boo-boos, calm fears, instruct, rebuke, worry, and pray. Then we pray some more. But, even with all that praying, sometimes we forget that God really is in control. That He has a plan. That the Keeper of the stars has numbered our days and our children's days. And that He is not surprised when Caesar decrees a census, or the inn is full, or Herod murders hundreds of babies, or mobs shout, "Crucify Him!"

Thirteen years ago, when our son Jacob was fifteen, he nearly drowned in Caddo Lake. He was under water for at least ten minutes, and it took another twenty minutes of CPR before he breathed. If he didn’t die, doctors said he’d be vegetative for the rest of his life.

This was not what I had dreamed for my first-born son. It wasn't what I prayed for or planned. Where was the Keeper of the stars when Jacob sank below that murky lake water? Why didn't He intervene? How could this be His plan for my son?

When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem, Simeon told His mother that a sword would pierce through her soul. In the days following Jacob's accident, I think I learned a little bit how that feels. Many of you have no doubt felt it as well--pain that cuts so deep it hurts to breathe. But God was there, holding us up and whispering to our hearts, "Watch me. I'm doing something beautiful, and I want you to see it."

So we watched. Even as grief broke our hearts, we watched. And we saw a whole community come together around one wounded boy. We watched Jacob's peers become people of prayer and compassion . . . Blessings can turn up where we least expect them. But it isn't about our expectations. It's about God’s plans.

Tracy's song says, "It was no accident. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew." We love those lyrics when they refer to finding our soul mate--perhaps not so much when they're applied to tragedy or loss. And yet, looking back on all the beauty God has created and continues to create through our family's brokenness, I'm convinced more than ever that the Keeper of the Stars is working out His plans with perfect faithfulness. Jacob's near-drowning was no accident. Someone had a hand in it long before we ever knew. That's why I felt compelled to write our story. I wanted to encourage other people to look beyond their pain and trace God's sovereign purposes in their suffering.

Psalm 139 says,

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

We know Jesus was formed in His mother's womb for God's purposes, and all His days were written in His Father's book when as yet there was none of them. The same is true for you, for me, and for our children. Jacob is exactly who God wants him to be--a simple man of deep faith who inspires people to love God purely and to serve others with compassion.

Is this the life I would have planned for him?

No. It's better.

Our daughter, Grace, is four months pregnant with our first grandchild. Monday she and her husband Curtis found out they're having a girl. We're all overflowing with joy and gratitude, hope and expectation. I know Grace is already dreaming beautiful dreams for her daughter. That's what mothers do. I also know she will face some surprises down the road. But God won't be surprised. Even as He knits this little girl in Grace's womb, every one of the days formed for her is already written in His book.

The Keeper of the Stars has it all under control. Aren't you glad? I know I am.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Blessings . . . in You!

It’s a busy time of year, and with the present condition of the economy, finances are tight. Can you dare to believe that you are a gift to give to others? And that is enough?

When you attend a Christmas event, what do you bring that is special about you? When you walk into a room, what will you add?

When you write a card or note, what words and expressions of who God created you to be can bring encouragement, laughter, or peaceful assurance to others during this season?

When you offer a gift, does it say to the recipient, “I know you,” and even in its simplicity, does it give a little of yourself?

When Jesus came as a little babe, he gave himself. Yes, he is the very best gift of the Christmas season for all of us, but when we give of ourselves—especially as expressions of who God created us to be—we help others discover and believe that God exists and that he cares.

This year, instead of obligatory gifts and cards, look for ways to slide away from the expectations and get creative. Do something daring and new that has your God-given personality all over it!

Have a blessed Christmas being fully you!


Tuesday, December 08, 2009


1. Consider purity. What does “purity” mean? Freedom.
pu⋅ri⋅ty –noun
1. the condition or quality of being pure; freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, pollutes, etc.: the purity of drinking water.
2. freedom from any admixture or modifying addition.
3. ceremonial or ritual cleanness.
4. freedom from guilt or evil; innocence.
5. physical chastity; virginity.

Some things I wish I had practiced as a teen:

Consider God’s best choice. If Jesus were sitting across from you, looking into your eyes, what would He say? What is His best that He wants for you?

Make it your choice … not your parents’ choice. Looking back in five or ten years what would make you proud?

Consider purity in your mind, body, soul and spirit. Purity isn’t just about sex; it’s about every part of you. It’s about integrity. It’s about being whole people. It’s also about helping others stay pure. Has something you said, or did, or wore become a stumbling block for someone else?

Consider marriage … and your future spouse. The bonding of two people for life. Every time you are emotionally or physically intimate with someone you’re giving a piece of yourself away.

Look to good role models. All of us follow where we are led. Who to you look to for inspiration? Do you follow behind people who live with integrity and purity?

Be a good role model. Consider your life. Are you living with integrity and purity?

Get cleaned up. None of us are completely pure. Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Take your mistakes to God. Bring them to Him in prayer.

Learn from others’ mistakes. You don’t have to mess up to learn the pain and heart-ache it brings.

Consider what love is. Love is not sex. Going “all the way” with someone doesn’t prove your love. (No matter what they show on television.) Going all the way is committing to someone for life! True love is shown through life-long commitment and by valuing the other person. You are the one responsible for setting limits on a relationship.

Pregnancy CAN happen to you. Having sex, even so called "protected" sex, can lead to pregnancy. It can happen even to kids from a good family and homeschooled kids. The only way to 100% prevent pregnancy is to not have sex. Also, you can get an STD from physical contact alone. If any part of the other person touches any part of you … you can get an STD.

Even “good girls” get pregnant. Likewise, being a “good guy” isn’t enough to stop you from getting your girlfriend pregnant. Having a good report card, being a good person, having an important parent, or being conscientious will not protect you from pregnancy. According to teenpregnancy.org, 1 in 3 young women get pregnant at least once before they turn 20—good girls included.

Most teens wished they had waited. Sex before marriage can lead to pregnancy and STDs, but there is also emotional baggage. According to teenpregnancy.org, 60% of teens “wished they had waited longer” to have sex. When you have sex with someone you are bonded to them for life.

Plan his/her actions BEFORE the situation arises. Do: set boundaries. Do not: get into situations that will cause you to compromise decisions. Making good plans can help you stick to goals.
Consider media’s wrong messages. The media (television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, the Internet) are chock full of material sending wrong messages.

There’s a thing called secondary purity or secondary virginity. You can say “no” even if they’ve said "yes" before.

Ask your parents to interview your dates. Interview your possible date yourself, too, him/her about morals and boundaries. Tell him/her your expectations.
Seek God … often. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV). Listen to His still, small voice.

Books for teens:
• Every Young Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge (Waterbrook)
• So You’re About to Be a Teenager: Godly Advice for Preteens on Friends, Love, Sex, Faith, and Other Life Issues, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, with Samuel and Rebecca Rainey
• Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty, Dannah Gresh (Moody Publishers)

Like this? Check out My Life Unscripted

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas is a-coming

And we won't even talk about who's getting fat. Hint: It ain't the goose!

I don't know about you, but I'm one of those people who groan when the stores break out the holiday decorations on, like, the day after Hallowe'en. I look the other way at the frosted Christmas trees, and flinch at the sight of people stringing lights on their houses on Thanksgiving weekend. My husband calls me a grinch. I prefer the term "non-commercialist." But then, last year, while I was writing my All About Us series, it just so happened that I wanted to do a Christmas story, and oops, the publishing schedule dictated that it would come out in September--a full month before those department stores put up their decorations!

Hoist with my own petard, I was. So I had to embrace my inner elf and just run with it. But I have to confess, researching Scottish Christmas traditions (this book is set in the character's Scottish castle) kind of put me in the spirit. I put out the word on Facebook that I needed some information about Scottish Christmas and New Year's traditions. A girl from Scotland replied and told me just the kind of details that I could wrap seamlessly into my story. Like what? you ask. Like these:

- At three o'clock on Christmas Day, the Queen's speech on TV is an institution. So I worked it so that my heroine is hurrying to get something done before three, and makes a mistake that pivots the plot in a dangerous direction.

- Families often go to the local pub to celebrate and dance on Christmas Eve, after the carol service. So of course I made up a pub and set a scene there.

- Midnight on New Year's Eve is called "the bells," so I made sure I referred to it that way. And I had people come to the door of the castle "first-footing," because it's good luck to bring a gift to someone's house first thing on New Year's Day.

Meanwhile, back in the States, under all the tinsel and the piped-in Christmas carols lies what it's really all about: family, close friends, hospitality, and--let's not forget--the birth of the baby that started it all. So, while we're on the subject, what are the Christmas traditions at your house? Put up a comfy chair, have a glass of eggnog, and let's talk!

Shelley Adina


Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Day Late but Better for it . . . Hopefully

I woke up in a panic a little after midnight, realizing that was supposed to blog on Saturday but completely forgot. I’d mentally reminded myself and everything. Still, it slipped my mind. I similar thing happened last month, but that time I got caught up in other things that needed to get done and kept putting the blogging off until . . . you guessed it . . . I flaked.

This morning I realized the problem behind my recent failures to post on this blog. I’ve become unorganized. At first I thought I was too busy. Then I thought of all the people I know who do just as much or more but still manage to faithfully fulfill their commitments. I thought I’d come up with a system after a writer’s conference that I attended in the spring, then again when the school year started. But I guess I let my system slip. So tomorrow it’s back to being organized. Here are some things that plan to implement (make that re-implement). Perhaps you will benefit from one or two of them:
• Go to bed earlier – I’m always more refreshed and ready to go in the morning when I do this. It’s also much easier to follow through on the next item on my list, which is . . .
• Get up earlier – Face it, when have a ever benefitted from ignoring the alarm clock then racing around like a crazy woman only to get a late start on everything?
• Make a to-do list the night before and look ahead to what needs to be done throughout the week
• Start the day with prayer and time in God’s Word
• Stick to the items on the list before adding other things
• Stay focused
• And finally, treat everything like an appointment, including posting on blogs.

So yes, I’m a day late for my post. But I grew in the process.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Crazy Christmas Cookies

When I was growing up, we made slice-and-bake cookies. My mother liked to keep her kitchen clean so never made our own homemade Christmas cookies. It's been one of those things I've always wondered about, but just hadn't tried.

Three years ago, this changed. I, along with my grown-up children, made Christmas cookies for the very first time. My daughters are now 28, 25, and my son is 18. We made a mess and laughed the whole time--especially when Katie decorated hers with orange and purple icing. We're getting together December 13th to do our Christmas Cookie Baking Tradition again.

That first rainy December afternoon in the kitchen, some new truths settled in my heart.

1. God made us to be creative.
2. It's okay to make cookies that don't look like the ones in the magazines.
3. You can start a new tradition at any time.

Katie gave me her recipe to share with y'all. It's from Betty Crocker.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies--and it makes a bunch.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix sugar, butter (or margarine), shortening, vanilla, egg, in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Divide dough into three pieces. You can refrigerate the other two while you're making the first set. Roll into 1/4 inch thinness on lightly floured surface. Use cookie cutters to make cookies. Cook for 6-8 minutes on un-greased cookie sheet.

Have fun decorating. Use orange and purple icing if you want to! It's ooooo-kay. :-)


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Principle of the Path

This is such a simple concept that it is a wonder that it is so often ignored. The principle of the path is that you will reach the destinations along the path as long as you are moving forward.
Say you are in college and you want to be a nurse. You are taking biology classes. You've lined up courses with your advisor's help and will graduate in two years. Classes and labs are situated along the path. Fraternity parties and skipping class to go to the mall are not.
That's easy enough to understand.
All paths are not equal. Your path to becoming a nurse might look different than someone else's. You got a scholarship so your path is straighter than Girl Friend A who is working in a nursing home parttime. And your path and Girl Friend A's path actually reaches the destination. But Girl Friend B says she wants to go to nursing school, but she is waitressing in a bar and going to beautition school because she wants to be able to do her own nails.
You got the picture. The principle of the path is that you will end up where the path is leading. Don't fool yourself by thinking you are on the right path when you see the signs that clearly indicate the path leads somewhere else. Be aware.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

You say it's your birthday!

I have birthdays on the brain today because one of my daughters turns 9 today. (Well, she told us very emphatically that she doesn't actually turn 9 until 10:42 this evening - she checked her birth certificate so she could know for sure.) So we have a few more minutes of being 8.

I love birthdays. Truly. I share a December birthday with my daughter only mine is on the 30th - sandwiched mercilessly between Christmas and New Years. Definitely not a good time for a birthday. I was glad that at least hers was early enough in the month to have a little distance from Christmas - when we get to focus on celebrating another joyous birth!

You know, we have a lot of trouble in this world. And I know I can't be the only one who feels overwhelmed, stressed out or just plain panicked at times. Especially at this time of the year. But days like today remind me to slow down and celebrate life. Celebrate the fact that we've been given a wonderful and precious opportunity to live.

So if you're reading this - I celebrate you. I am so glad you were born. I am so glad you're here. And I'm thrilled beyond measure that you've visited with us here at Girls, God and the Good Life. Because with Jesus, it is indeed a good life.

Till next time,

Sarah Anne Sumpolec